Iconic Ads: Complan – I am a Complan Girl

Rather than being a family nourisher, Complan narrowed its focus to children by stating the number of nutrients it had

Glaxo first brought it to India in 1964. Doctors were the first to recommend Complan — an abbreviated form of ‘Complete Food Plan’ — as a convalescence drink.

However, in India, the focus was narrowed as Horlicks, the market leader in malt drinks, was a family nourisher. The focus for Complan was on kids promoting the drink mix as being better to milk for growing children, with “23 vital nutrients whereas milk has 9”.

Complan changed the perspective and promotion of child nutrition in this country. Till Complan started talking about child growth, Indian children grew up on their own and did not use any special dietary supplements. And Complan changed the story.

In the 70s, it used the champion swimmer Anita Sood to communicate the benefit of using Complan and it was a huge success. Glaxo, who owned Complan then, conducted independent studies to prove the superiority of his brand over Horlicks and to justify its premium.

There is a secret motivation for the whole health drink industry. Parents, particularly moms, are often concerned that their children are not receiving sufficient nourishment. Complan used the feelings of a mother’s love in its advertisements, particularly for this reason.

In the early 90s, research was conducted in South and West by Chaitra among users and non-users of Complan, wanting to know what exactly mothers wanted for their kids. The mothers wanted their children to be taller than children of the same age. They also understood that in most cases growth meant height and in some cases weight too. As was commonplace then, kids were made to stand against the wall and heights were then compared.

At the same time, socially, there were rumblings of gender equality and questions were asked why Complan only featured boys. So it was decided to feature a girl too.

The brief was to indirectly refer to Complan while talking about the growth in height. The focus was to show the kids growing with incidents that showed the change in height.

Tannaz Kalyaniwala wrote the scripts. She was inspired by the famous Jim Reeves song ‘But you love me Daddy’ for the lyrics. In Hindi, the lyrics were for ‘Main badh raha hoon, Mummy’. Though efforts were made to get a better line, they could not.

Ehsaan Noorani gave the music for the film.

The kids sang ‘I am a Complan girl, I am a Complan boy … and we love our Complan mummy’. Arguably it was the first time when the girl child was the centre of the storyline. She plays basketball, she helps her mother. But the brand could not get typecast as a girl brand, so they did have a son who says, ‘I am a Complan boy’.

Interestingly, the boy was Shahid Kapoor and the girl Ayesha Takia. The mom was Smita Jayakar

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